From many, there will be one. And while there’s still no guarantee contending athletes will win their own state at this point in the season, a number of elite performers are making a case for Gatorade National Softball Player of the Year consideration. Here’s the scoop on the latest top candidate.
Greatness Present: Before Ashlee Swindle reached high school, Curry was 0-for-forever in state championships. In all team sports.
Courtesy of the 5-foot-8 workhorse, however, the Yellow Jackets can now add a second consecutive title to their blossoming trophy case. She’s also made Curry the proud owner of the No. 17 national ranking in the USA TODAY High School Sports/National Fastpitch Coaches Association Super 25 Expert Rankings. It’s no wonder she was named one of, wait for it, just 15 finalists for another national POY award earlier this week.
The MVP of the 2016 Class 4A state tournament, Swindle spun a five-hit shutout in the 5-0 championship game victory over Loveless Academic Magnet Program, striking out 12 and walking just one. She also launched a first inning two-run homer to provide all the offense the Jackets would need.
Earlier in the day, Swindle hurled a two-hitter to beat Central Florence, 1-0, advancing Curry to the final and topping the 1,000- strikeout barrier for her career. All thanks to elite velocity, great mechanics and an arsenal of pitches with late movement.
The senior finished the year with a dazzling 45-2 record and a 0.59 ERA. She struck out 385 batters in 262.2 innings while allowing just 123 hits and 34 walks.
Her two losses both came on the same day, when Swindle pitched four games (and 26.1 innings) on April 2 in the Tournament of Champions. She later avenged both defeats, winning her final 20 starts overall.
Swindle was also a force at the plate this season, posting career-best numbers in just about every category. She hit .557 with 13 home runs and a team-high 86 RBI.
Greatness Past: Swindle pitched the Yellow Jackets to the Class 4A state title as a junior, earning 43 wins with a 0.22 ERA. She struck out 327 batters in 285 innings, batted .354 and was named to the Super All-State Team. Swindle led Curry to third-place finishes in the state tournament as a freshman and sophomore.
Greatness Future: Swindle has signed to play for Auburn.
Make no mistake: The Gatorade State Softball Player of the Year races aren’t over, and the National Player of the Year race is now heating up. Time remains for one standout student-athlete among thousands to rise to the top of our list. Check back for regular updates on the top contenders making a case.